Master-Workshop «In Code»

by Armin Blasbichler

It may be considered as one of civilizations biggest achievements to embed codes of conduct in society by converting tacit or arbitrary behavior through explicit laws in to a working governance model. One of the earliest evidence of this cultural effort is reported on the Code of Hammurabi dating back to 1750 BC. A foot stone stele with an extensive set of engraved rules – a programming language, that represented the legislation backdrop for the Babylonian Empire.


From a viewpoint of governance the effectiveness of abstract rules depends on the acceptance by the members of a community or a society. From a viewpoint of design the effectiveness of the legislation/execution binary of rules depends on their encoding/decoding performance. In distributing codes among the members of a society, culture plays a key role. Culture code in fact is the act of translating features of behavior through different techniques and technologies into tangible forms of information to identify the culture, i.e. the shared common ground of codes.

A bindi, a traffic light, a computer file, a Morse signal, a letter or an ideogram are examples of such cultural output as they refer to a specific system of rules. The use of these man-made artifacts implies the adoption of the inscribed rules and thus affects our actions, behavior, belonging and conduct. The conversion of codes into tangible information usually happens on three layers: (i) Coding, namely the ideation and recording of abstract rules; (ii) Encoding, namely the inscription of those rules into tangible artifacts; (iii) Decoding, the intelligible conversion of the inscribed information for the recipients.

«In Code» aims to take a look in to the engine room of design agency and to investigate in the implications of codes at the intersection of analogue and digital realms of cultural production. Code is speech, code is law, some say – but above all, code is intent.